July 1, 2005

Stages set for Live 8, the ‘greatest concert ever’

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Final preparations were under way onFriday for what organizers promised would be the greatest musicshow on Earth, with pop stars leaving their egos backstage toraise awareness of poverty in Africa.

Irish rocker and organizer Bob Geldof believes Saturday'sLive 8 event will eclipse Live Aid 20 years ago, when 1.5billion people tuned in to see the likes of U2, David Bowie andMick Jagger perform to raise money for Ethiopia's famine.

This time it is about people power, with organizers hopingthat huge crowds at the venues and a television and Internetaudience in the billions will put pressure on world leadersmeeting next week in Scotland to do more to fight poverty.

"I tell you something ... You will never see it again. Itwill be the greatest concert ever," Geldof told an audience ofyoung people on the MTV channel.

In an open letter from Live 8 appearing in The Timesnewspaper on Saturday, organizers made a final plea togovernments to meet their demands to end poverty.

"Just as people demanded an end to slavery, demandedwomen's suffrage, demanded the end of apartheid - we now callfor an end to the unjust absurdity of extreme poverty that iskilling 50,000 people every day in the 21st Century," it said.

Concerts will be held in all the Group of Eightindustrialized nations, plus one in Johannesburg and anotherfeaturing African acts in southwest England.

Tokyo will open proceedings in the east and the event windsup in North America.


The initiative, costing an estimated 25 million pounds ($45million) to stage, has been widely praised by aid groups, andGeldof can point to a recent $40 billion debt forgiveness dealand U.S. pledges to double aid to Africa as signs of progress.

"We're on the way," he said. "It's incredible to thinkafter 20 years we're almost there."

The Live 8 concerts are linked to the Make Poverty Historycampaign, which hopes up to 100,000 people will march throughEdinburgh on Saturday.

"There is suddenly a real chance -- the sort that comes butonce in a generation -- for Africa to reverse its three decadesof stagnation," said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the headof the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Not everyone is sure Live 8 will directly affect theoutcome of the G8 meeting near Edinburgh on July 6-8.

There are also question marks over how smoothly Live 8 willrun. Organizers say they have had eight weeks to plan a show ona par with the Olympic Games in terms of the complexity of thetechnology and size of the potential audience.

Promoters in Johannesburg have done little to publicise thegig, and few music fans interviewed in South Africa'scommercial hub were even aware it was happening.

Some of those who plan to attend the Johannesburg concert,which will feature mostly local acts and few big names, wereskeptical about whether it would change their lives.

"I've got hope the concert tomorrow will bring nice thingsto Africa but they keep promising things and they don'thappen," said Bafana Konyama, who sells fake designer trainersfrom his street stall in the city center.

London, at least, is set to be a sell-out.

More than 200,000 people are expected in Hyde Park to hearthe all-star cast including Elton John, Madonna, and are-formed Pink Floyd. Paul McCartney and U2 are due to openproceedings with a rendition of "Sergeant Pepper's LonelyHearts Club Band."

(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray in London, JeremyLovell in Edinburgh and Rebecca Harrison in Johannesburg)